Prawns are one of the healthiest foods on the Christmas table. Picture: Alex Coppel
Prawns are one of the healthiest foods on the Christmas table. Picture: Alex Coppel

Five festive foods to eat guilt-free

WHEN it comes to food and the way we think about it, the brain works in a funny way. When we limit certain foods, or feel restricted in any way, the focus we place on these foods can actually result in us thinking (and eating) them more. This is just one of the reasons that diets, especially restrictive ones, generally do not work - we simply crave what we are not supposed to be eating. This is one of the reasons that focusing on what we can eat and enjoy is a step in the right direction diet-wise. So this Christmas, these are the foods you can tuck into guilt-free thanks to their positive nutritional properties.

PRAWNS

Prawns and seafood in general are surprisingly low in calories. While they may be a little pricey, in terms of your waistline, this is one Christmas favourite there is no need to limit. Packed full of protein, calcium, iodine and zinc, prawns - like most types of shellfish - are a low calorie, nutrient-dense food choice. And while prawns are often linked to adverse effects on cholesterol, there is no evidence that prawns specifically increase blood cholesterol. Plus, thanks to their relatively low fat content, you can enjoy them freely. The biggest issue with prawns is what we eat them with. Served grilled or marinated and with salad is fine, but if they are deep fried or served with creamy sauces and dressings, the bad fat content will be significantly increased. So try to enjoy these tasty treats in as natural a state as possible to reap all the health benefits without the extra calories.

If you can afford to fill the table with these on Christmas Day, feel free to get stuck in. Picture: Alex Coppel
If you can afford to fill the table with these on Christmas Day, feel free to get stuck in. Picture: Alex Coppel

FRESH FRUIT

It doesn't matter if your preference is stone fruit, mangoes or melon - fresh seasonal fruit is always a top choice. We often hear that fruit is a source of sugar and as such needs to be enjoyed in controlled portions. While fruit does contain the natural sugar fructose, when you compare nutrient-rich fruit to most other popular Christmas snack choices including shortbread, mince pies, chocolate-covered nuts and sweets, it becomes obvious why it remains a good choice. And let's be honest, the cherry, mango and stone fruit seasons are so short - why should you have to limit one of nature's wonder foods at this time of year?

It wouldn’t be an Aussie Christmas if you didn’t get through a whole bowl of these. Picture: Gabrielle Johnston
It wouldn’t be an Aussie Christmas if you didn’t get through a whole bowl of these. Picture: Gabrielle Johnston

TURKEY

Not as popular here in Australia as in the US, it is really a shame we do not eat more turkey year-round simply because it is so good for us. Turkey breast is one of the leanest protein sources available with less fat than beef fillet, lamb fillet, pork fillet and chicken breast and turkey offers more than 10 essential nutrients including selenium and iodine. Turkey is also a tasty lean meat, with much less fat than pork and much less salt than ham and as such earns its place at the centre of the Christmas table.

Turkey is so lean, it should be eaten year-round
Turkey is so lean, it should be eaten year-round

NUTS

Like fruit, all varieties of nuts are nutritious choices offering a protein and fibre-rich snack that is also packed full of essential fats and a range of vitamins and minerals including B group Vitamins, zinc and selenium. For good health, weight and cholesterol control, it is recommended that adults consume a small handful or roughly 20 mixed nuts each day. Including nuts as a regular part of your Christmas feasting is a good thing - just be mindful that natural roasted nuts are best, as opposed to the chocolate-coated varieties than can contain as much as 300 calories and 20g of fat in just 5-6 scorched almonds.

Stick to the raw variety and you’ll be fine
Stick to the raw variety and you’ll be fine

ICED DRINKS AND DESSERTS

You may prefer an iced coffee or tea, or a scoop of lemon gelato, or frozen fruit thing but focusing your sweet cravings around all things icy will save you some serious calories over the next couple of months. For example, your favourite iced tea mix of water, herbal tea and ice contains literally no calories; while skim milk, ice and coffee too comes in at under 100 calories for a cooling treat. Making your own iced desserts means you get the tasty treat for 100 calories or less. Frozen fruits dipped in a little dark chocolate is another relatively healthy treat while frozen Greek yoghurt makes a perfect ice cream alternative.



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